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"Women are exposed to hazardous chemicals not only differently than men, but they also have a higher susceptibility to them"

Report on the Women and Chemicals Side Event at OEWG2 of SAICM in Geneva, December 17

19.12.2014 |Alexandra Caterbow, WICF

On the 17th of December 2014, WECF hosted a side event on the issue of women and chemicals at the Open Ended Working Group of SAICM, with the active participation of PAN Asia Pacific and BaliFocus.

The side event attracted many delegates of the OEWG. The issue of women and chemicals is very relevant for SAICM. Women are exposed to hazardous chemicals differently than men. They have a higher susceptibility to hazardous chemicals, are the first environment for their children, and they have less decision making power in politics and economy. WECF presented its new report "Women and Chemicals", which will be released soon.

Desiree Navaez from UNEP Chemicals
gave a key note, stressing the importance of the topic for UNEP and their willingness to work further on the topic. UNEP Chemical supported financially the WECF report and the expert workshop held earlier this year.

Sarojeni Rengam from Pesticides Action Network Asia Pacific (PAN AP) reported from her work on pesticides with women in Asia and Africa, which involves empowerment and capacity building activities, such as trainings on agricultural farming, a traveling journal for women noting their experiences, and the encouragement of women to take political action. Her presentation can be found here.

Yuyun Ismawati from BaliFocus presented her work with women on artisanal small scale gold mining in deprived communities. She assesses the impact of mercury on those women and potential ways for alternative livelihoods. Most of the women do not know what is causing the health problems of themselves and their children. Awareness raising and safer alternatives without mercury are urgently needed. Find the presentation here.

Meriel Watts from PAN AP presented her research on breast cancer and pesticides. We know that 99 pesticides are proven to be linked to the development of breast cancer. Cancer incident rates raise every year, there is evidence that around 50 per cent of all breast cancer cases can be linked to environmental factors such as chemicals. Much more needs to be done to prevent breast cancer. Find out more about the issue in Meriels presentation here.

WECF hopes very much to continue its work on the topic of women and chemicals together with the presenters. Further activities are urgently needed, also on the issues of endocrine disrupting chemicals and the exposure of unborn babies.

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